Warrenpoint Port, the second largest port in Northern Ireland, recently proposed a new placement site for dredged material within Carlingford Lough.
Mr Peter Conway, Chief Executive said “As with most ports, Warrenpoint must clear its berths and channel from time to time to maintain depths to allow ships to berth. The dredged material in and around the port consists of natural sediment, silt and glacial material such as gravel and cobbles.”
“Current environmental thinking encourages such material to be retained as close to its origin as possible to ensure the natural balance of the sediment system is maintained. This together with the current cost and significant carbon footprint of moving sediment to a distant location in the Irish Sea is the driving force behind the Port’s desire to seek for an in Lough disposal site,” added Mr Conway.
For the past 40 years the port has carried out a major dredging campaign approximately every 5 years, with more localized dredging within the port every 2 years in the areas where the loss of navigable water depth is most severe.
Dredged material is currently placed at a licensed offshore site 26 km from the port and 11 km outside of the sheltered waters of Carlingford Lough.
According to the port, during the periods between major dredging campaigns, due to siltation the port operates with severely restricted navigational channels and berths. This impacts on trade significantly, with larger vessels unable to be accommodated.
To improve the sustainability and effectiveness of its maintenance dredging, the port is considering investing in a small in-house dredger. The present practice of dredging a large volume over a short period of time would be replaced with a ‘little and often’ approach.
The port added that dredging would be an ongoing process, occurring throughout the year. For this approach to be feasible a less exposed placement site is required, to ensure a small vessel can safely transit to and from the site.
Following a site-selection exercise, which included consultation with statutory stakeholders, two potential placement sites within Carlingford Lough have been identified; one towards the mouth of the Lough between Greencastle and Cranfield Point and one in naturally deep water between Killowen Bank and Carlingford Bank.
The port is working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to consider the potential effects of a new placement site within the lough.
Before DAERA will consider a licence application for a new placement site, the port must undertake a ‘characterization study’ to consider the potential effects of the new placement site.
The port has submitted a ‘scoping report’ to DAERA, which identifies the issues that will be considered during the characterization study. The scoping report recognizes the concerns raised by stakeholders on a wide range of issues, including the proximity to designated conservation and commercial sites, and describes the approach that will be taken to assess potential adverse effects on these sensitive receptors.
Once the port has received feedback from DAERA on the scoping report, the next stage will be to begin the characterization study, which will involve collecting baseline data and undertaking complex technical studies. Once the study has been submitted to DAERA, they will consult with interested parties and subsequently make a decision on whether to grant a licence for a new placement site.
It should be noted that the current 5-year dredging program due to commence in early June 2017 will utilize the existing licensed site some 26km from the port. This dredging campaign normally lasts about 4 weeks.